When creating RPG settings, cities are actually really tough to get right. They have to be more than just a collection of adventurer-related businesses and quest givers, which means they’re going to require work. But it’s all too easy to go overboard and waste time creating pointless background that’ll get ignored forever.
In a sandbox setting, you probably ought to err a bit on the side of parcimony, at least until you have a good read on your players’ intent. But there are exceptions to that rule, and one of them is that the starting city needs to be able to both sustain adventures and encourage the players to explore.
Which means it needs to 1-have enough color that the party wants to stay there, 2-have plenty of hooks, to let the players pick their fun, and 3-have an obvious link to the broader setting.
Point 1 is enough to justify an entire post on its on. It’s details on what we’ll work on today.
As to point 2, let’s have a look at the hex again, and especially at our adventure hooks:
Well, we know from the previous post that there’re are rumors of a monster in Moose Lake and goblins in the Old Watchtower. We want to introduce those hooks from the start.
The Monster rumors are going to be of the “local legends” variety (to be detailed in a future post.)
For the goblins, it’s simpler: everyone knows in the city that the local army detachment (which doubles as the local police) always has odd jobs for adventurers, since it’s chronically overwhelmed. That’s also why they tolerate adventurers’ antics. So the players will be told, flat out, that the army can be a source of adventures.
That bit of trivia opens up some options, too. The army is supposed to handle crime, but obviously they aren’t trained for that purpose, which means there’s a small-time organized crime problem in town. Not an epic fantasy thieves’ guild, but a small group of tough ex-adventurer types causing trouble. This has become a personal pet peeve of the local commander
The army is also not up to running counter-intelligence operations, which matters because Port Roven is something of a minor prize to seize, as the real city nearest the local teleport gate. It’s not yet a major city, but it could be. And politically, it’s the seat of the local government, which means it sees its share of spies and conspirators.
Finally, we know that there are some merchant companies based in Port Roven. One runs a logging camp, another is backing the mines at Three Hills (and both are always looking to hire adventurers both for legitimate exploration or security missions, and for black ops against their opponents.)
Finally, we probably also want a local wizard, as well as a religious organization, just to provide basic services. These I don’t want to involve in the adventuring aspect of the city. They might offer the occasional adventure, but neither are a source of long-term intrigue for Port Roven. That’s strictly a matter of taste, not one of design.
And point 3… will also wait. Port Roven will be a colony of one of the “old world” powers. I’ll need to describe where they fit in the grand political scheme of thing… but that’s for another day. But there’s obviously international conflict in the campaign’s future.